Ex-Employee Misappropriation

Ex-SanDisk Employee Arrested in Japan, Civil Suits Filed in the Wake of Alleged Flash Memory Trade Secrets Misappropriation

Technology firms SanDisk and Toshiba recently filed trade secrets lawsuits on opposite sides of the Pacific, each alleging misappropriation by a third party stemming from the two companies’ joint venture.

SanDisk filed in California (seeking damages and injunctive relief) and Toshiba in Japan for alleged misappropriation of trade secrets from SanDisk and a SanDisk-Toshiba joint venture. In Japan, the alleged perpetrator was arrested.  Engineer Yoshitaka Sugita, his former employer, SK Hynix, and two wholly-owned North American subsidiaries stand accused of misappropriation.  SK Hynix is accused in both the California and Japan actions. READ MORE

CHRISTMAS EDITION: Trade Secrets Litigation Delayed to Save Christmas?

On Christmas, Santa and his elves have their work cut out for them and sometimes even they can use help to get their jobs done.  During the holiday season, a variety of businesses assist Santa & Co. to import and distribute Christmas merchandise and other seasonal goods to retail stores in time for the holidays.  Unfortunately, those companies can be as susceptible to a trade secrets dispute as anyone else, and one year just such a dispute threatened to put a damper on Christmas. READ MORE

Trade Secrets Watch 2013 Year-in-Review

It’s been a hot year in the trade secrets field, with some huge verdicts and settlements, a renewed spotlight on cyberattacks, and an unusual flurry of trade secrets legislation.  Trade Secrets Watch’s 2013 Year-in-Review highlights the notable trade secrets activity from the past year. READ MORE

The “I Was Just Trying to Land a New Job” Defense to Criminal Trade Secret Theft Charges

On February 28, 2008, Hanjuan Jin, a Chinese-born former software engineer for Motorola, arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport en route to Beijing.  During a random customs check, officials discovered that she had a one-way ticket to China, $31,252 in cash, thousands of confidential documents regarding Motorola’s iDEN cell phone technology, and ties to the Chinese military.  Her excuse for travelling with thousands of confidential and proprietary Motorola documents in her suitcase?  Jin said that she planned to refresh her knowledge of the work she had done over the past years with Motorola, “so that I can prepare myself for further career going [sic].” READ MORE

HALLOWEEN EDITION: Cookie Maker Gets Early Treat when Court Protects Halloween Cookie Recipe as a Trade Secret

In September 1995, Philadelphia-area cookie manufacturer Sweetzel, Inc. got an early Halloween treat when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that the company’s cookie recipes and customer lists constituted trade secrets, and granted an injunction against Sweetzel’s competitor.  The dispute centered on Sweetzel’s “Spiced Wafers,” which are sold on a limited basis during the Halloween season and have been celebrated as a local food tradition that traces its roots to colonial times.


Former Employee Allegedly Coughs up Cold Remedy Formula: Broad Non-Disclosure Agreement Largely Ineffective

A New Jersey appellate court’s decision last week in UCB Mfg., Inc. v. Tris Pharma, Inc., serves as a cautionary tale for employers when drafting confidentiality agreements to protect their trade secrets and confidential information.  In UCB, the court found that the confidentiality provision in a pharmaceutical company’s employment agreement with one of its former employees was unenforceable because it was overly broad in time and scope, did not further a legitimate business interest, was contrary to public policy, and was unduly burdensome on the employee.

The case emerged when plaintiff pharmaceutical company UCB alleged that its former lead cough syrup formulator, Yu-Hsing Tu, disclosed confidential information about one of its cough syrup formulas after leaving UCB and joining the company’s competitor, Tris.  After Tu’s arrival, Tris became the first company to produce a generic form of one of UCB’s profitable cough syrups.  UCB sued Tu and Tris for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of Tu’s confidentiality agreement with UCB, and unfair competition.  UCB later dropped its trade secrets claim after failing to secure a preliminary injunction.

While working for UCB, Tu had signed a confidentiality agreement which stated Tu would not disclose “secret or confidential information” without UCB’s consent.  The agreement specified that “secret or confidential information” included READ MORE

FOURTH OF JULY EDITION: Family Fireworks: Plot to Steal Client Lists Goes up in Smoke

fireworks220For many, Fourth of July festivities wouldn’t be complete without a baseball game, a family barbecue, and of course, fireworks.  But for one family-operated fireworks company in California, its members had an unhappy reunion in court when a great-grandson’s decision to leave the family business exploded into a dazzling dispute over trade secrets.

According to court papers, Manuel de Sousa and his family immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area from Portugal in the early 1900s and set up a fireworks business for local Portuguese community celebrations.  Manuel eventually passed the family business to his son Alfred, who then passed it on to his grandson Bob.